Need to know: What is behind Ofsted’s rash of surprise school inspections?

Is a teachers’ leader right to suggest that Ofsted is using inspections to ‘play politics’ in support of schools taking controversial stances? Tes reports.

Amanda Spielman will appear before the Commons Education Select Committee on Wednesday. Among other issues, MPs are expected to question the chief inspector about her decision to speak out in support of a school that banned younger girls from wearing the hijab, and send in inspectors who subsequently praised the school.

Issues of faith and religious extremism have been a priority for Spielman and her predecessor Sir Michael Wilshaw since the Trojan Horse affair emerged in 2013, and the chief inspector last week reiterated her frustration that Ofsted’s recommendations to prosecute some illegal schools have not been acted on.

Here is what you need to know:

Why did Ofsted get involved in the row about one primary school’s uniform policy?

It is unusual for a chief inspector to insert themselves directly in controversies involving single schools.

This case goes back to January, when St Stephen’s Primary School in Newham hit the headlines over its decision to remove the hijab from its key stage 1 uniform. The move provoked a backlash locally, and was later reversed.

Has this process been used to inspect other schools whose policies have proved controversial?


Great Yarmouth Charter Academy in Norfolk has sparked national debate about school behaviour policy because of its strict approach, most recently when it banned boys from sporting the “Meet me at McDonald’s” haircut.

What right did Ofsted have to inspect the schools?

St Stephen’s has been rated “outstanding” since 2011, meaning that it is exempt from routine Ofsted inspections. However, Ofsted can inspect nevertheless conduct monitoring inspections of such schools in certain circumstances.

In this case, the report on the school said it was triggered by Ms Spielman’s “concerns about the effectiveness of leadership and management at the school”, due to “press reports and social media activity which suggested a potential breakdown in trust between school leaders and parents following a report in the national press about the school’s policies on uniform and fasting”.

Read the full article Need to know: What is behind Ofsted’s rash of surprise school inspections?

Has your school had a surprise inspection? Please tell us your thoughts in comment or via Twitter ~ Tamsin

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